September 11, 2015


Wax Pack: One Man's Road Trip to Track down Every Player from a Pack of Baseball Cards (Steven Lebron, 9/09/15, Vice)

Meet Brad Balukjian. He's a 34-year-old with a PhD in entomology--the study of insects. While Balukjian was training as a scientist, he spent time in Tahiti and discovered 20 new species of insects that only lived in that area. With a background in journalism, Balukjian toggles between science writing and teaching biology at Laney College in Oakland. Oh, and this past summer, he went on an 11,341-mile road trip in his 2002 Honda Accord to visit 14 players from a pack of 1986 Topps baseball cards.

"It's a project I've always wanted to do for a while. It was just waiting for the right time," Balukjian tells me. He didn't just open one pack of cards. There are several, in case you get "four guys who are dead, or eight guys that are in California. The road trip was as much a part of the story as baseball," he said. And so, the pack he chose from to form his road trip included former Toronto Blue Jay Rance Mulliniks, Al Cowens, Garry Templeton, Randy Ready, Gary Pettis, Jaime Cocanower, Don Carman, Vince Coleman, Dwight Gooden, Lee Mazzilli, Richie Hebner, Carlton Fisk, Steve Yeager and Rick Sutcliffe.

There was also a checklist in the pack, which did not make it into the narrative. Of the 14 players, all were still living and breathing, with the exception of Cowens, who passed away in 2002 at the age of 50 from a heart attack. Admittedly, having Carman in the pack was a plus, since Balukjian grew up a Phillies fan and idolized the former Philadelphia pitcher. And, yes, just to confirm in case it's not apparent: baseball is Balukjian's favourite sport. He remembers spending hours outside in the backyard with a wiffle ball and bat playing out countless imaginary scenarios. He spent hours watching and talking baseball with his father, and still does.

Posted by at September 11, 2015 7:37 PM

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